Re: Line Size for page (FM 7.1)

Subject: Re: Line Size for page (FM 7.1)
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 15:06:09 -0400

Joe Malin wrote:

I'm designing a book pretty much from scratch, using FrameMaker 7.1. The
company used to use a 7x9 page size, but we don't actually print our
books, we distribute them in PDF format and then expect our customers to
read them online or print them off on a laser printer. If you print a
7x9 book to laser, you get a small amount of info in the middle of big
blank space, which is not only hard to read but wastes paper. For that
reason, I thought to change the page size to 8.5x11.

How thoughtful of you!<sarcasm/>

At first, I used margins of * 1.25" left , 1" right (right page), * 1.125" left 1.75" right (left page)

What's your thinking here? First, do you expect your customers to print
duplex? If so, the margins really ought to be symmetric. Otherwise, your
document should be designed so that it can be printed either one-sided
or two-sided. That would imply equal left and right margins and a
centered folio, eliminating the whole left page/right page thing altogether.

But getting back to my question, what elements of your design led you to
choose such an asymmetric layout?

* 1.125" top
* 1.375" bottom

Top and bottom margins don't pertain to your question. I'm glad to see
you made the bottom margin larger than the top, though.

If you're looking for a default to start with, try a 5-inch text column.
I don't know what this means in terms of margins, because if you use a
design that hangs the headings at the left margin and has the text
column aligned at the right margin the actual page margins could be
quite narrow (but wide enough to allow for the ring binder). This 5-inch
measure may go down, though; see below.

Now I'm wondering if this is too large of a line length. Is there any
data out there that suggest the optimum line length for reading?

Yes there is, but line length is specified in average characters per
line, not in inches. First you need to know what font you are using and
what size you are using it at. Then you can determine the optimal line
length. For book work, the maximum comfortable line length for extended
reading is about 60-65 characters. For technical material that nobody
really wants to read, though, you should try to keep it under 55. Some
authorities want to push the number down to 40, and that's fine for
newspapers and magazines; but it's a bit impractical for books.
Customers might complain about the amount of paper you're forcing them
to use if you do that. Of course you could go with narrow margins and a
two-column layout if you wanted to.

I note
that my margins are real close to the default margins that MS Word uses
in for a 8.5x11 page, but of course that doesn't prove
anything (other than that I'm channeling the mind of someone up in

The defaults in the MS Word template are horrendous. The
productivity of the average document intensive businessperson in the US
(I'm thinking in terms of lawyers, CxOs, investment analysts, think tank
wonks, ..., people who read hundreds of pages a day) would increase by
15% if were redesigned intelligently. I've watched these
people reading stuff on airplanes and it's just so depressing to see how
bad design impedes their reading speed.


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